After almost six weeks of huge totals, shock wins, heartbreaking losses, records and controversies, the group stage of the Cricket World Cup ended on Sunday.

Ahead of the semi-finals, which get underway on Wednesday, AFP Sport looks at 10 highlights from the opening round:

South Africa, Markram in fast lane

The tournament was just two days old when South Africa’s Aiden Markram smashed the fastest World Cup century off 49 balls against Sri Lanka in New Delhi.

His team also entered the record books with the highest ever tournament total of 428 in a 102-run win.

Markram’s blitz bettered the 50 balls Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien needed to hit a 100 against England in Bengaluru in 2011.

However, Markram said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if his record was beaten by the end of the tournament. He was proved right by Glenn Maxwell just 18 days later.

Pakistan’s record chase

Abdullah Shafique celebrates after scoring a century against Sri Lanka on Oct 10. — AFP
Abdullah Shafique celebrates after scoring a century against Sri Lanka on Oct 10. — AFP

Mohammad Rizwan and Abdullah Shafique made centuries as Pakistan chased down the highest target in World Cup history to beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in Hyderabad.

Rizwan overcame leg cramps to score 131 not out while Shafique hit 113 as Pakistan overhauled their 345-run target.

Sri Lanka’s imposing total of 344-9 was built around brilliant hundreds from Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama.

Afghanistan, Netherlands make mark

Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman (C) celebrates the wicket of England’s Chris Woakes during their 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Oct 15. — AFP
Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman (C) celebrates the wicket of England’s Chris Woakes during their 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Oct 15. — AFP

Afghanistan pulled off one of the greatest World Cup shocks when they defeated defending champions England by 69 runs in New Delhi.

Chasing 285 to win, after opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz had hit a blistering 80, England were bowled out for 215 with spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan claiming three wickets each.

Eight days later in Chennai, Afghanistan chased down 283 to shock neighbours Pakistan with Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah and Gurbaz all scoring fifties.

In between, the Netherlands exploited South Africa’s dislike of chasing by stunning the Proteas by 38 runs in what Dutch media described as “the miracle of Dharamsala”.

Record-breaker Maxwell — part 1

Australia’s Glenn Maxwell celebrates after scoring a century in the match against Netherlands at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on October 25, 2023. — AFP
Australia’s Glenn Maxwell celebrates after scoring a century in the match against Netherlands at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on October 25, 2023. — AFP

Maxwell took Markram’s fastest World Cup century record by hitting a 41-ball hundred in Australia’s 309-run rout of the Netherlands at New Delhi.

Australia made 399-8 before the Dutch were dismissed for just 90 in 21 overs. Maxwell’s ton was also the fourth fastest century in all ODIs. South Africa’s AB de Villiers leads the way with his 31-ball century against the West Indies in Johannesburg in 2015.

Australia, New Zealand run festival

Jimmy Neesham of New Zealand got dismissed after a run-out as his team ended up on the losing side in a thrilling game against the Aussies — Via X
Jimmy Neesham of New Zealand got dismissed after a run-out as his team ended up on the losing side in a thrilling game against the Aussies — Via X

Australia edged out New Zealand by just five runs in the highest-scoring World Cup game in history in Dharamsala.

Australia scored 388 as Travis Head top-scored with 109 and fellow opener David Warner made 81.

New Zealand battled hard with Rachin Ravindra making 116.

With a total of 771 runs, it was the highest scoring game at a World Cup, beating the 754 scored in South Africa’s win against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament.

India add to Sri Lanka woes

SRI LANKAN batter Angelo Mathews is castled by Indian pacer Mohammed Shami during their match at the Wankhede Stadium on Nov 2.—Reuters
SRI LANKAN batter Angelo Mathews is castled by Indian pacer Mohammed Shami during their match at the Wankhede Stadium on Nov 2.—Reuters

Mohammed Shami took five wickets as Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 55 as India secured a semi-final place with a colossal 302-run win in Mumbai.

Sri Lanka’s woeful innings featured five noughts, with both their openers falling for golden ducks as they flopped in pursuit of 358.

Fakhar’s fireworks

Fakhar Zaman celebrates after scoring a century during the World Cup match against New Zealand at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Nov 4.—AFP
Fakhar Zaman celebrates after scoring a century during the World Cup match against New Zealand at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Nov 4.—AFP

Fakhar Zaman cracked a blistering century in a rain-affected and dramatic 21-run victory for Pakistan over New Zealand at Bengaluru.

The left-hander smashed 11 sixes and eight boundaries in his unbeaten 81-ball 126 as rain forced a premature end to the match with Pakistan 200-1 after 25.3 overs.

Rachin Ravindra hit his third century of the tournament while Kane Williamson scored 95 to help New Zealand pile up 401-6 in their 50 overs.

King Kohli

India’s Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his 49th century, equalising with Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most number of ODI centuries in World Cup game against South Africa on Nov 5. — Reuters
India’s Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his 49th century, equalising with Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most number of ODI centuries in World Cup game against South Africa on Nov 5. — Reuters

Virat Kohli equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 one-day international hundreds as India bowled out South Africa for just 83 in a 243-run rout with the superstar hailing his achievement as “the stuff of dreams”.

Kohli, on his 35th birthday, got to the landmark in 119 balls, including 10 fours, at Kolkata’s iconic Eden Gardens which was packed with around 70,000 fans.

It had taken him 277 innings to score 49 hundreds at this level compared to the more than 450 required by fellow India 2011 World Cup-winner Tendulkar.

Timed-out controversy

Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews branded Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan as “disgraceful” after he became the first player in 146 years of international cricket to be given “timed out”.

Mathews was adjudged to be out after failing to take strike within the two-minute time limit when he came out to bat in New Delhi.

Shakib refused to withdraw the appeal.

“I had to take a decision to make sure that my team wins,” he said.

Record-breaker Maxwell — part 2

Australia’s Glenn Maxwell plays a shot during the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between Australia and Afghanistan at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 7. — AFP
Australia’s Glenn Maxwell plays a shot during the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match between Australia and Afghanistan at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 7. — AFP

Australia captain Pat Cummins described it as “the greatest one-day innings ever played” as Glenn Maxwell’s stunning 201 not out guided Australia into the semi-finals in a sensational three-wicket victory over Afghanistan in Mumbai.

At 91-7, chasing 292, Australia were staring at defeat before Maxwell’s 128-ball innings which featured 21 fours and 10 sixes as he became just the third batsman to score a World Cup double century.

He achieved the mark despite battling cramps and back spasms which meant he was reduced to hobbling pace while Afghanistan were left to rue Mujeeb Ur Rahman dropping a simple catch when Maxwell had made just 33.

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